Williams going to Alabama
HUNTINGTON — After more than a decade of flips, twists and Rudis, Kayla Williams has added a new roll to her arsenal of aerial gymnastics moves.
It is called a Roll Tide.
Williams, the world vault champ from Huntington, verbally agreed to compete in collegiate gymnastics with the University of Alabama on Friday.
“I’ve been smiling non-stop for the past two days,” Williams said. “Its importance is up there even with the Olympics and the world championship. Getting a college scholarship out of the 11 or 12 years not only helps my family, but it also gives me a couple of extra years to compete before I have to retire.”
Earlier this year, Williams narrowed her college choices to five schools — Alabama, Georgia, UCLA, Michigan and West Virginia.
In January, she visited the campus during the time of a meet between Alabama and Georgia — two of her final five schools.
Not only did the Crimson Tide win the meet, they won over Williams.
“The entire atmosphere of the competition was great. It is always going to be intense, but they made it fun,” Williams said. “I loved the team, loved the coaches and I told my Mom ‘If I could commit right now, I would.’ We talked a little bit more about it and went over other schools, but in the end it was ’Bama.”
When many people think of Alabama, they think of Paul “Bear” Bryant and the football program, which won the 2009 BCS National Championship over Texas.
However, the gymnastics program might be one of the most storied sports programs in the nation.
In gymnastics, Alabama has built a powerhouse that includes 25 NCAA Region Titles, 20 top-two finishes in the Southeastern Conference and 19 top-three finishes in the NCAA Championships.
In 2010, the Tide finished No. 3 in the NCAA Championships at the University of Florida. The Super
Six appearance came after Alabama had won the NCAA Lexington Regional and NCAA Semifinals following a regular-season that included a 9-2 mark with all 11 meets coming against top-25 competition.
It is all part of a tradition that drew Williams to the school.
“I’m just so happy and excited to say that I’m going to be an Alabama gymnast,” Williams said. “They are always up there in (NCAA) rankings and the SEC is the best gymnastics conference.”
Not only is Williams happy to be a future Alabama gymnast, she is also excited to have the decision out of the way so she can focus on other tasks currently at hand.
One of those other tasks is getting prepared for the U.S. Cover Girl Classics, which take place in July.
Such a scenario was not likely at this time last month after a fallout between her family and former coaches Bozhi Russev and Hrabrina Spencer left her without a gym to train in for three months.
Earlier this month, Williams hooked up with legendary coach Mary Lee Tracy, who runs Cincinnati Gymnastics Academy.
Now, Williams is trying to make up for lost time as quickly as possible.
“It’s been pretty brutal. Three months off from gymnastics is an eternity,” Williams said. “I’ve just really been trying to do a lot of cardio, vault, beam and floor. Now, I think I’m back in the shape I was before, so I’m going to keep up and not get back down.”
In addition to preparing for the Cover Girl Classics, Williams is finishing up her junior year at Huntington High School through online classes.
After making her college decision this week, she said she can’t wait to get started on her senior year — so she’s not.
“Next Friday, I will officially be a senior, but I am taking two classes over the summer to graduate early,” I still want to graduate a Highlander.”
Last year, Williams took the gymnastics world by storm when she became the first female gymnast in U.S. history to win a world Vault title when she won Gold at the 2009 World Gymnastics Championships in London.